Teaching Profession

College Requirement for Substitutes Tabled in Louisiana

By Erik W. Robelen — October 03, 2001 3 min read

It seemed like a modest, common-sense proposal: requiring long-term substitute teachers in Louisiana to have the same educational level as the people they replace, that is, a college degree. But some Louisiana superintendents, saying the initiative substitutes unrealistic nonsense for common sense, rebelled.

Now the plan faces an uphill struggle. Last month, the state board of elementary and secondary education voted 8-2 to table the plan to impose new state requirements for substitute teachers, including a mandate that any substitute who teaches in the same classroom for more than 20 days must have a college degree.

Some viewed that vote as effectively the death knell for the proposal. But Paul G. Pastorek, the board president, vowed that he would seek to revisit the matter, possibly as soon as the next board meeting this month.

Noting that the state requires 4th and 8th graders to pass state tests before progressing to the next grade, he said: “I felt that it was unfair to the children to have substitute teachers in the classrooms who weren’t really qualified to teach the material.”

Some district superintendents say that while they support the concept, they oppose the proposal.

“What superintendent could be against having the best-qualified sub?” said Lloyd Lindsey, the superintendent of the 2,500-student West Feliciana public schools. But he said the reality in Louisiana is that finding substitutes with bachelor’s degrees is not always easy, especially in poor rural areas.

And the matter is overshadowed by a much larger problem, Mr. Lindsey argued.

“We have some districts in Louisiana that can’t even get certified teachers,” he said. “Why are we worried about subs?”

“It’s another unfunded mandate,” said Jude W. Theriot, the superintendent of the 31,000-student Calcasieu schools. He noted that no money was attached to the proposed requirements.

Louisiana is one of many states that permit individuals without a college degree to substitute teach.

“The majority of states only require a high school diploma,” said Geoffrey G. Smith, the director of the Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University.

A national survey conducted by the institute in 1999 found that 21 states required a bachelor’s degree for substitute teaching, though a few of those states made exceptions, for example, for so-called emergency substitutes.

Middle Ground?

Mr. Smith said that educational background is not necessarily a recipe for good substitute teaching. “There are a lot of individuals with a wealth of experience in life” who lack a bachelor’s degree, he said. “Even someone with a Ph.D. is not [necessarily] equipped to go into a classroom.” The key, he argued, is effective training for substitute teachers.

Beyond the academic requirement for long-term substitutes, the Louisiana proposal has two other provisions. First, all substitutes who teach for a day or more would be required to have a high school diploma and undergo at least four hours of training. And second, all substitutes would have to undergo criminal-background checks.

Leslie Jacobs, a state board member who originally supported the proposal, said that after hearing the complaints from superintendents that the proposal was unrealistic and unfair, “I cried ‘uncle.’” She abstained when the board ultimately voted to table the matter.

Ms. Jacobs suggested, however, that there might be some middle ground.

“I think people are trying to work on a compromise,” she said. “I’m not clear exactly where it’s going. ... I don’t believe there are the votes [today] to pass” the bachelor’s-degree requirement.

Mr. Lindsey, the superintendent of the West Feliciana schools, expressed concern that the requirement might lead to a “numbers game,” in which districts would move a substitute teacher out after 19 days to avoid the requirement.

He and others also emphasized that pay for substitutes is a big problem. The pay varies widely in Louisiana, depending on the educational background of the individual, but in some cases it is less than $40 per day.

But Mr. Pastorek isn’t ready to give up. He says his goal is to get the proposal passed this school year.

“I think it’s not the last we’ll see of this issue,” he said. “I’m going to continue to push on it.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
The Fall K-3 Classroom: What the data imply about composition, challenges and opportunities
The data tracking learning loss among the nation’s schoolchildren confirms that things are bad and getting worse. The data also tells another story — one with serious implications for the hoped for learning recovery initiatives
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Nearly 9 in 10 Teachers Willing to Work in Schools Once Vaccinated, Survey Finds
Nearly half of educators who belong to the National Education Association have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site set up for teachers and school staff in Reading, Pa., on March 15.
Matt Rourke/AP
Teaching Profession Q&A Nation's Top Teachers Discuss the Post-Pandemic Future of the Profession
Despite the difficulties this school year brought, the four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award say they're hopeful.
11 min read
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
Courtesy of CCSSO
Teaching Profession Teachers Are Stressed Out, and It's Causing Some to Quit
Stress, more so than low pay, is the main reason public school teachers quit. And COVID-19 has increased the pressure.
7 min read
Image of exit doors.
pavel_balanenko/iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Opinion Should Teachers Be Prioritized for the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Not all states are moving teachers to the front of the vaccination line. Researchers discuss the implications for in-person learning.
6 min read
Teacher Lizbeth Osuna from Cooper Elementary receives the Moderna vaccine at a CPS vaccination site at Roberto Clemente High School in Chicago, Ill., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
Chicago public school teacher Lizbeth Osuna receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a school vaccination site last week.
Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP